The problem with subjective rankings is that they are just that – subjective. But there is no doubt the 20 high schools selected here are among the very best Manhattan has to offer: schools with top-quality academic programs, or fiercely competitive performing arts programs or unique, ‘only-in-New York’–type schools that blend cultures and language into proving grounds for college and beyond.
Some are big, some are small. Some have terrific sports programs, some hardly any. Some specialize in technology, math and science. Others prepare their students for careers in medicine or health services.
The High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies expects all students to be fluent in Mandarin and English by time they graduate. LaGuardia High applicants must audition, and kids must pass a rigorous test to get into Stuyvesant. The High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering proclaims it is educating the “next generation of leaders” in the technology field. Baruch College Campus High School partners with such stellar institutions of higher learning as Baruch College and Harvard University – while Lower East Side Prep is a transfer school that deals with students 17 to 21 who have recently arrived in the U.S. or have dropped out of other schools.
New York City high schools aren’t zoned by neighborhood so students can apply to any of the 400 or so schools in the city and then try to test, perform or just dazzle their way in.
To come up with our best in the city list, we relied on the school’s website, the Department of Education’s Quality reviews, inside schools.org, great schools.org, school digger, the U.S. News & World Report rankings and conversations with parents who have sent their children to some of these institutions.
Our list certainly isn’t perfect. But it’s a great place to start to find the right school for your child.
New Explorations into Science, Technology and Math High School111 Columbia St.
Enrollment: 1,730 (k-12)
Graduation Rate: 98%
Avg. Attendance: 97%
Ethnicity: 11% Hispanic, 33% Asian, 9% black, 42% white
Avg. class size in English class: 26
NEST+m is a K-12 program that begins in the Lower School with courses that include Singapore math and a foreign language, and progress to Regents level courses by 9th grade. The school offers courses in music, art, dance, technology and Advanced Placement. Its classwork is rigorous. The school snagged a 10 out of 10 rating from greatSchools.org, and ranked 26th on the U.S. News list of best New York public high schools.
High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at City College240 Convent Ave.
Graduation Rate: 99%
Avg. Attendance 94.3%
Ethnicity: 37% Asian, 25% white, 24% Hispanic, 9% black, 5% other
Avg. class size in English class: 31
This school, where boys outnumber girls by a 2 to 1 margin, prides itself on “Educating the Next Generation of Leaders in a Technology-Driven World.” It gets rave reviews across the board – instruction, school culture and systems for improvement. The coursework is rigorous and Advance Placement courses are plentiful. School leaders convey high expectations to teachers, who do the same for students. It ranked 10th in the U.S. News & World Report list of the best New York high schools and got a rating of 10 out of 10 from greatschools.org.
Stuyvesant High School 345 Chambers St.
Avg. Attendance 97%
Ethnicity: 73% Asian, 21% white, 3% Hispanic, 1% black
Avg. class size in English class: 27.
Stuyvesant is the name that comes to mind when talking about the best high school in New York, but many on this list – and in other boroughs – would dispute that. Students can choose from 28 Advanced Placement courses and seven languages and are expected to earn a Stuyvesant-endorsed diploma that includes courses reflecting the school’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) focus. The rap on it is its miniscule percentage of black and Hispanic students. It rated a perfect 10 on greatschools.org and 15th on the U.S. News list for New York.
Eleanor Roosevelt High School 411 E. 76th St.
Graduation Rate: 100%
Avg. Attendance 96%
Ethnicity: 62% white, 11% Hispanic, 4% black and 21% Asian.
Avg. class size in English class: 27
This popular Upper East Side school, with about 60% girls and 40% boys, claims a 100% graduation rate and offers each student an individualized education. Its mission is dedicated to teaching students “to be life-long learners” who think critically and solve problems creatively. “Our commitment to open, thoughtful exploration ensures that Eleanor Roosevelt High School is a place where questions are as important as answers.” It received a rating of 9 out of 10 from greatschools.org, and was ranked 17th by U.S. News & World Report.
School of the Future High School127 E. 22d St.
Enrollment: 715 (high school only)
Graduation Rate: 82%
Avg. Attendance: 95%
Ethnicity: 36% white, 28% Hispanic, 16% Asian, 12% black
Admissions: Limited screening
This school, which is a middle school and high school, is in the Coalition of Essential Schools, part of a Gates Foundation-funded program. The school prides itself on being an “experience school,” and touts its diversity not only of ethnicity, but also across academic and socio-economic lines. Students write “exhibitions” instead of taking state Regents Tests. Received a 10 of 10 rating from greatschools.org.
Baruch College Campus High School 55 E. 25th St.
Avg. Attendance 97.7%
Ethnicity: 59% Asian, 15% Hispanic, 1% black and 20% white.
Avg. class size in English class: 28
The DOE’s Quality Review Report says this school – which partners with Baruch College and Harvard – has a “consistently rigorous curricula and academic tasks (that) ensure that all students have access, are cognitively engaged and required to show their thinking.” Space is a little tight and demand is great: Only 1% of applicants were accepted for the 2013 class. It ranked 48th on the U.S. News & World Report list and got a 9 out of 10 rating from greatschools.org.
Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts 100 Amsterdam Ave.
Avg. Attendance 95%
Ethnicity: 45% white, 20% Asian, 19% Hispanic, 11% black, 5% multi-racial
Avg. class size in English class: 30
This school, a successor to the “Fame” school, is a magnet for talented kids from across the city – from the children of musicians, celebrities and movie stars to kids eligible for free lunch. Racial diversity is high and students take regular academic courses and two to three hours a day of their specialty, including drama, dance, music, art or production. School hours are long and parent involvement is high. It ranked 45th on U.S. News list and snagged a 9 out of 10 rating from greatschools.org.
Millennium High School 75 Broad St.
Avg. Attendance 95.9%
Ethnicity: 36% Asian, 35% white, 19% Hispanic, 7% black
Millennium offers four years of math and science and three years of foreign language, including Spanish or Mandarin. The school offers a variety of Advanced Placement courses, including AP Calculus, Advanced Biology, Advanced Spanish, Chemistry and Physics. The school says 81% of students earn an Advanced Regents Diploma. It received a 9 rating from greatschools.org and was ranked 51st best New York public high school by on U.S. News & World Report.
Manhattan Village Academy43 W. 22d St.
Graduation Rate: 95%
Ethnicity: 7% white, 73% Hispanic, 6% Asian, 12% black
Avg. class size in English class: 20
This relatively tiny high school boasts small classes with a strong college prep curriculum and teachers who are encouraged to think outside the box. Girls outnumber boys by 2 to 1, and competition for a seat is fierce – about 20 applications per seat. It is ranked 107th by U.S. News & World Report and snagged an 8 out of 10 rating from greatschools.org.
High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies350 Grand St.
Avg. Attendance 98%
Ethnicity: 89% Asian, 2% white, 6% Hispanic, 3% black.
HSDLAS expects all students will be fluent in Mandarin and English by the time they graduate. It offers a rigorous curriculum with an emphasis on STEM education; 97.7% of students completed rigorous Advance Placement courses. Peer study groups meet regularly and academic teachers meet regularly with English as Second Language teachers to collaborate on lesson plans. The DOE’s Quality Report for 2014-2015 gave the school excellent reviews. It got an 8 out of 10 rating from greatschools.org, and ranked second on the U.S. News & World Report list of best New York City public high schools.
Lower East Side Preparatory High School 145 Stanton St.
Graduation Rate: 31%
Avg. Attendance: 88.3%
Ethnicity: 69% Asian, 20% Hispanic, 9% black, 1% white
Admissions: Transfer School.
Avg. class size in English class: 25
Despite its low graduation rate, this school gets high marks for providing a quality education to students who have recently arrived in the U.S. or who those who have dropped out of regular high schools and decide to return. It’s about 85% English Language Learners and students come from more than 50 countries. Teachers are creative and work hard to engage kids learning English or giving high school a second chance. It ranked 60th on the U.S. News list and got 7 out of 10 stars from greatschools.org
Young Women’s Leadership School 105 E. 106th St.
Enrollment: 300, grades 6-12
Ethnicity: 54% Hispanic, 33% black, 8% Asian, 3% white,
This girls-only school in East Harlem is the perfect place to send your child if she doesn’t want to be distracted by boys in middle or high school. Uniforms are required, but classes are small and teachers work to instill the notion that girls can get as far academically or career-wise as boys. Advanced Placement courses are offered and the school partners with Smith and Barnard Colleges. Ranked 107th by U.S. News & World Report. Scored 7 out of 10 rating from greatschools.org.
NYC Lab School for Collaborative Studies333 W. 17th St.
Avg. Attendance 94%
Ethnicity: 44% white, 16% Hispanic, 29% Asian, 8% black, 3% multi-racial
This campus school in Chelsea has a rigorous curriculum that offers a wide range of experiences and choice. As its name implies, it’s big on collaboration and emphasizes critical thinking skills in academic tasks across grades and subjects. It adds a special focus to help English Language Learners and students with disabilities prepare for college and careers. Some Advanced Placement courses are offered. It ranked 64th on U.S. News list and got a 7 out of 10 rating from greatschools.org.
NYC Museum School 333 W. 17th St.
Avg. Attendance: 95.5%
Ethnicity: 14% white, 41% Hispanic, 31% Asian, 13% black
Admissions: Screened and state reading scores
Avg. class size in English class: 32%
As its name implies, this school takes frequent trips to museums. Classes are broken into museum-based study groups called modules to focus on certain areas, such as geometrics or forensics. They usually involve a long-term project and culminate in a presentation. For instance, a geometric module would visit bridges and churches for project material. It ranked 107th by on the U.S. News & World Report list and received a 7 out of 10 rating from greatschools.org.
NYC School 131 Sixth Ave.
Graduation Rate: 90%
Avg. Attendance: 92%
Ethnicity: 27% white, 42% Hispanic, 10% Asian, 18% black
This school, which opened in 2008 is geared to students who are self-starters and highly inquisitive. There’s a rooftop garden and weight room. It bills itself as a school for the 21st century and strives to “develop a whole new vision for teaching, learning, and the student experience.” Ranked 115th by U.S. News & World Report, it rated 7 out of 10 stars from greatschools.org.
Beacon High School530 W. 44th St.
Avg. Attendance 95.4%
Ethnicity: 49% white, 23% Hispanic, 9% Asian, 14% black
Avg. class size in English class: 33
Beacon High School, where girls outnumber boys by 2 to 1, is slated to move from an overcrowded old factory to a new building on W. 44th St. in Hell’s Kitchen for the 2015-2016 school year. It offers a traditional liberal arts program infused with technology and arts. To graduate, students must present performance-based projects to panels of teachers and complete a stint of community service. Beacon offers extensive travel opportunities, including trips to Russia and Africa. It got a 4 out of 10 from greatschools.org and was 105th on the U.S. News list.
High School for Environmental Studies444 W. 56th St.
Graduation Rate: 83%
Avg. Attendance 90%
Ethnicity: 60% Hispanic, 16% Asian, 15% black, 9% white
Admissions: Scores and random
This school provides a unique curriculum combining environmentally infused college prep courses with internships at Wave Hill Public Garden and the Bronx Zoo, and field trips designed to improve the environment. A variety of programs are tailored to students depending on their abilities. The school offers numerous AP courses and has a small Honors Academy for the top students. HSES ranked 114th on the U.S. News list and got a 4 out of 10 rating from great schools.org.
Central Park East High School1537 Madison Ave. 129 W. 67th St.
Graduation Rate: 77%
Avg. Attendance: 93%
Ethnicity: 63% Hispanic, 25% black, 7% Asian, 4% white
One of four schools in the Jackie Robinson Education Complex, Central Park East looks at middle school grades and attendance rather than state math and English tests. It has a peer-to-peer mentorship program that selects 20 rising juniors to act as support to a new class of ninth grade students. It ranked 138th on the U.S. News list and rated 5 out of 10 on greatschools.org.
A. Philip Randolph NYC Museum School 443 W. 125th St.
Avg. Attendance: 86%
Ethnicity: 1% white, 61% Hispanic, 5% Asian, 31% black
Admissions: Screened and application
Avg. class size in English class: 32
This school offers specialization in medicine, engineering or the humanities in its landmarked Gothic building in Harlem. It says its mission is to provide students “with the skills and experiences necessary to prepare our graduates to succeed at competitive colleges and universities.” To do that, it stresses Advanced Placement courses in such subjects as English composition, calculus biology, psychology and Spanish. It earned a 4 out of 10 rating from greatschools. org.
Manhattan Bridges High School 525 W. 25th St.
Avg. Attendance 91%
Ethnicity: 100% Hispanic.
Admissions: Limited to Hispanic students who have been in the U.S. fewer than three years and whose English skills are limited.
Avg. class size in English class: 19
The school, ranked 20th in the U.S. News & World list of best New York public high schools, has class periods of 72 minutes to give all students, especially English Language Learners, the time they need to apply their learning in the classrooms. The students, all of whom are eligible for free lunch and are required to wear uniforms, receive extra support and real-time feedback to measure their progress. About 81% participate in Advanced Placement classes. It ranked 20th best on the U.S. News list and got a 3 out of 10 ranking from greatschools.org.